I have little doubt that electric cars are soon going to be the future. But since the charging infrastructure here still leaves much to be desired, fans of automotive amperes have had to resort to hybrid propulsion. Nissan however, reckons that we need not compromise and gave us a taste of that instantaneous torque so analogous with electric cars last week with the Nissan Serena e-POWER.
The eagle-eyed among you will note (haha get it?) that the car has some strange numbers: A 1.2-litre unit seems hardly sufficient for a seven-seater, and is that 134bhp really generated at a whopping 9867rpm? Rest assured that those are not typos. The Serena e-POWER is a hybrid in the sense that you fill up at the pumps and yet electricity is somehow involved, but that piccolo unit under the bonnet is not mechanically connected to the driving wheels, well, not directly, anyway.
Nissan's e-POWER technology instead uses that petrol engine to power a generator which in turn, feeds current into a battery or electric motor in order to drive an electric motor, so you can see why we are dealing with very unusual numbers. But doesn't it sound like a just a hybrid car with more steps?
You might be tempted to conclude at this point that all those additional processes must lead to some energy loss, and you are right. But as it turns out, so is operating a petrol engine through a conventional gearbox and having it run through vastly different engine speeds. The gains made from separating the petrol engine from the rest of the drivetrain are actually enough to make up for the complication of it all.
But does it work well enough? We know it should. It is technology that has actually been in use for years in heavier vehicles, in things like freight trains and mining trucks - precisely where your fuel bill will hit like a, er, truck - and a full day of fooling around in the car, starting and stopping for photos and so on returned me a 15.2km/L fuel consumption rate. Which is reasonable in my opinion, for a 1,700kg car.
But here's the thing though: If you are looking for an MPV, buy this, not because it's great with fuel, but because it has all the qualities of a good people carrier, with little of the typical drawbacks. It has a practical interior, and its weight is well masked under all that electric torque.
But the best part is driving the thing: Its smooth acceleration, the lovely chairs, as well as the knowledge that you are moving along so much metal made me feel like Captain of the Starship Enterprise. Check that everyone is belted up and engage warp drive! Now imagine what lovely consolation that is to having to ferry your kids around on your daily drive.
Looks like our electric future is approaching faster than we think.